Our new whitepaper “How to Keep Employees Safe When Every Second Counts” has been produced to coincide with National Preparedness Month 2019. It reports on the increasing frequency - and increasing cost - of severe weather events, and offers solutions to mitigate the risk of business disruption and injury to employees.
Although this year's hurricane season has only really started with Hurricane Dorian, weather agencies are forecasting up to twelve more tropical storms before the end of November - up to eight of which could develop into hurricanes. At least two major hurricanes are anticipated in the coming months, potentially causing billions of dollars of damage and impacting thousands of lives.
Consequently, it is a good time to be reminded that September is National Preparedness Month - an event sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in which citizens are encouraged to take steps to prepare for emergencies. As far as businesses are concerned, FEMA's “Ready” campaign proposes four threats to business continuity to prepare against:
- Natural hazards such as hurricanes, floods, tornados, and earthquakes.
- Health hazards and widespread serious illness such as flu.
- Human-caused hazards including accidents and acts of violence.
- Technology-related hazards such as power outages and equipment failures.
Inasmuch as these four can be addressed as individual threats, the final three could all be consequences of a severe weather event. Serious illnesses - or the exacerbation of existing conditions - are common after severe weather events, as are accidents due to poor conditions, and ongoing power outages. Therefore, it can be beneficial to develop an all-hazards approach to emergency planning when preparing a business against the threat of severe weather.
An Employer's Duty of Care to Employees
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers have a duty of care to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards, establish operating procedures and communicate them clearly, and provide safety training. In the context of severe weather emergency preparedness, this means identifying which severe weather events are likely to affect the business, developing an Emergency Action Plan, communicating the plan to employees, and conducting drills of the plan.
It is important for employers to be aware their duty of care extends beyond the physical workplace if employees work off-site or remotely, or travel between sites. Therefore, if any employee is likely to be impacted by a severe weather event - including a winter storm or extreme temperatures - they have to be included in the business's Emergency Action Plan. The penalties for failing to comply with OSHA regulations can range from $13,260 for a serious violation to $132,598 for repeated violations.
Beyond avoiding a fine for violating OSHA regulations, it also makes good business sense to protect employees from severe weather events. The direct costs of an employee sustaining an avoidable injury may be covered by insurance, but the indirect costs (loss of productivity, temporary labor/overtime costs, recruiting, hiring, and training replacement workers, etc.) can have a significant impact on profitability. For large businesses, the impact can be crippling.
How to Keep Employees Safe When Every Second Counts
Our whitepaper - “How to Keep Employees Safe When Every Second Counts” - discusses the most common types of severe weather events, and notes how they are increasing in frequency and cost. With regards to an employer's duty of care, the whitepaper raises the importance of timely warnings for employee protection and developing a “critical communications” employee safety net in order to stay connected during severe weather events.
In order to keep employees safe when every second counts, the whitepaper recommends mass notification systems with two-way mobile app extensions that enable employees to reach out for assistance when required. Provided employees are trained to use the systems - and the mobile apps are used in training exercises - the mass notification systems fulfil employers' duty of care, and facilitate business continuity - or an accelerated recovery - when a severe weather event occurs.
To find out more about the recommended solutions, do not hesitate to download our whitepaper. If, after reading the whitepaper, you would like to see the recommended solutions in action, you are invited to contact us in order to request a free demo. Our team of safety experts will be happy to discuss any unique severe weather threats that could result in business disruption or injury to employees, and will tailor the demonstration to your business's specific requirements.